What does the word atonement really mean?

Romans chapter 3 is one of the most powerful and theologically rich passages in the New Testament. It is in this chapter that Paul explains to the believers in Rome why Jesus’ sacrifice was so important and why it is such an amazing gift of grace. This is one of those passages where the original author assumes that the reader has a pretty thorough understanding of the Old Testament law and the Old Testament sacrificial system. There is where many of us, Christians in the 21st century, can be at a bit of a disadvantage reading this chapter. Many of us focus our time reading in scripture on the New Testament, as we should, but sometimes we miss the larger narrative of the Bible. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New; and Jesus is all throughout those stories, laws, and even the genealogies in the Old Testament.

One area that this becomes very clear is in the system of animal sacrifices that God sets in place through Moses primarily in the book of Leviticus. Now Leviticus is probably not on the top of your reading list, and the list of laws and requirements can become tedious; but this was the foundation for how God was communicating his love and grace to the world. I am going to insert a short video from the Bible project that explains the theme of atonement that runs throughout the Bible so well. Please watch this video and then scroll down to the end of the post:


Did you watch the video? Isn’t God’s plan so amazing! Doesn’t it make you want to shout out in praise and thanksgiving to God! The atoning power in Jesus’ blood is the gift that God freely gives us. It is the only way that sin can be eliminated from the world without eliminating us as well. This is how we experience new life, we are cleansed from our sins and then God forgets them! When he looks at us, he does not see those sins and their consequences. We do not stand condemned because of them. We stand pure in His sight, while the life-giving power of Jesus transforms us to be more like Him. The God of the Old and New Testament is the same. He has always been weaving together a story of forgiveness and grace. He has been working out a plan to rescue humans from evil since the book of Genesis. Jesus is that plan, Jesus is the rescuer. If we place our faith in him, his sacrifice purifies us and bring us new life!

I watch videos like the one above often, because they remind me of what God has done for me and they encourage me to live for Him. If you are a follower of Jesus, intentionally put things like this in your life to remind you of what God has done for you. The more we put the cross as a central focus in our lives, the more we look like Jesus to the world.

Grace in the small moments

Bob’s sermon this week was about grace and forgiveness, which are such crucial components of the Christian faith. If we claim to follow Jesus, then grace and forgiveness should be characteristics that naturally flow out of our lives. We all know that it is not easy to forgive others, or ourselves, especially when the sin (or pattern of sin) is very large.

But what about all of those little moments throughout the day when grace and forgiveness are easy to forget?

Jesus tells his followers in Matthew chapter 5 that we are to be the light of the world, and I can not think of any stronger light in this world of darkness than if Christians where known to be people of grace and forgiveness. Of course this is seen in those huge moments when victims of egregious crimes and atrocities are able to forgive those who have wronged them so terribly, but what about when those around you makes mistakes, step on your toes (literally and metaphorically), or say something that cuts just a little too deep? What about when someone crosses the line with you just a little, or even worse, inconveniences you when you are busy and stressed? These are the moments when we often forget about forgiveness, or even feel justified in our anger.

In Luke 16 Jesus tells us that “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. “(NLT).  I believe that this definitely applies to our ability to forgive others. Sometimes the great test of our faith and the greatest opportunity for us to be a shining beacon of God’s love are those little moments in the day when our human nature tells us it is ok to be angry or resentful, but the Spirit moves us to grace and forgiveness.  Those little moments add up, whichever way you handle them.

So when you go before God today, ask for the strength to forgive in the small things. Ask the Holy Spirit to move your to grace and forgiveness instead of anger. Then you will be a shining light for Christ in the middle of the grocery store, in the car, and around your house when those little things pop up.  We can count on these little moments almost every single day, what if others could count on you for grace?

The Name of God

In Exodus chapter 3, God identifies himself to humans for the first time. In all of the stories leading up to this one the children of Abraham knew they followed their ancestor’s God and no others, but they did not yet know his name. From the burning bush God tells Moses “I AM WHO I AM”, describing his being and character before telling him his name. In our english Bibles God’s name is represented with the word LORD in all capital letters, but the Hebrew word would have sounded like “Yahweh” which is built off of the word “I am”. God’s name is very significant showing us who he is and how we can relate to him. John Piper wrote a list of 10 amazing truths about God being who he is, and he articulates it much better than I can.

Today, read this list and then take some time to meditate and marvel about how amazing God truly is. I will post the link at the bottom of this post if you would like to read the entire article.

Ten Things It Means for God to Be Who He Is

Here is what it means that God is who he is:

1. God’s absolute being means he never had a beginning. This staggers the mind. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.”

2. God’s absolute being means God will never end. If he did not come into being he cannot go out of being, because he is being. He is what is. There is no place to go outside of being. There is only he. Before he creates, that’s all that is: God.

3. God’s absolute being means God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. There is no reality outside of him unless he wills it and makes it. He is not one of many realities before he creates. He is simply there as absolute reality. He is all that was eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God. Absolutely there. Absolutely all.

4. God’s absolute being means that God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is. That is what the word “absolute” being means.

5. God’s absolute being means rather that everything that is not God depends totally on God. All that is not God is secondary, and dependent. The entire universe is utterly secondary. Not primary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God’s decision to keep it in being.

6. God’s absolute being means all the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. As an echo to a thunderclap. As a bubble to the ocean. All that we see, all that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing. “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17).

7. God’s absolute being means that God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is. There is no development in God. No progress. Absolute perfection cannot be improved.

8. God’s absolute being means that he is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There is no law-book to which he looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.

9. God’s absolute being means God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth. There are no constraints on him from outside him that could hinder him in doing anything he pleases. All reality that is outside of him he created and designed and governs as the absolute reality. So he is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from the counsel of his own will.

10. God’s absolute being means that he is the most important and most valuable reality and the most important and most valuable person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe.

Wow! This is the God we serve. This is the God that longs for you to call out to him! It really is amazing when you think about it. Read the full article here:


We are called to do the craziest things

After Bob’s sermon yesterday I was thinking about where Moses was in his life when he had a radical encounter with God out there in the desert. He as a murder on the run from his crimes, turned his back on his people, and working as a shepherd in the middle of nowhere. He was a man who had lost everything and was hiding from reality in obsurity while working a dead-end job.

Not really the resume that you would be looking for if you were trying to find someone to bravely liberate millions of oppressed people in the name of God.

But that is not how God works. God dosen’t write people off as fast as we do. Even though Moses tries to talk God out of using him several times, God does not let him off the hook. Instead he reminds Moeses that He will be with him every step of the way.

Is God calling you to do something? Is He calling you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone or outside of your abilities? Is He calling you to do something you feel completely inadaquate to do?

Probably, because that is exactly how God works. We see it with Moses. We see it with King David the scrawny shepherd boy unqualified to be King. We see it with the 12 disciples, a bunch of rough neck fishermen who were the last people you would ever think would change the world.

God works this way, because when we are thrust into something that everyone else in the world thinks we can not accomplish it becomes obvious that God is the one with us, that God is the one at work. We are capable of very little, but God can change the world by working THROUGH us.

So what is God calling you to do? Be bold and courageous because God is with you and wants to lead you every step of the way.

Communities that learn from each other

My wife and I have experienced the power of discipling relationships in many ways over the years. Relationships are an important part of how we grow in our Christian faith and it is through relationship that we experience God. Relationships can have a tremendous amount of power, even if they only last a short time.

About 9 years ago,  when my wife and I had barely been married for a year, we traveled to Ukraine for Kyla’s internship. We worked through a church and helped with an orphanage and several youth programs while we were there. During that time we lived with another American family whose lives impacted us dramatically. The husband and wife had felt God calling them to give up their jobs and and take their two kids to live amongst the people in Ukraine, and that is exactly what they did. When we stayed with them, they had been there for a few years and were becoming more established in the community and in their ministry. We only lived with them for 6 weeks, but spending that time with them became a time of friendship, mentorship, and discipleship that has impacted our family for years to come.

By living life side by side with them my wife and I saw a picture of how we wanted to live our own lives, how we wanted to raise our kids, and the aspects of life and ministry that we wanted value. By living with this family we learned about marriage, parenting, and ministry in a way that can never be taught. Those lessons have stuck with us all of these years and we refer back to them often. We were able to learn about their struggles and success in life and ministry and our relationships with them shaped our own future.

This is how important relationships are. This family wasn’t perfect, but they allowed us to live life beside of them and we all grew and benefited from it. Young families need to be able to befriend, worship, and experience life with people that are farther down the path in their lives. We all have things that we can share, we all have stories of the way God has worked in our hearts and transformed us, we all have dealt with pain and frustration and learned lessons that can help others in their own journeys.

We weren’t meant to walk alone. Christianity has, from the beginning, been about a community of imperfect people who have one thing in common that unites them- their shared love for Jesus. If you love Jesus, its time to take all of the things you have learned in life, the pain, sweat, tears, and triumphs and share them with others. God wants to use you and he wants you to be a part of a thriving community of faith. This happens when we open our doors and our hearts to each other.

Christian Relationships in the Read World

Bob’s sermon this week was about the importance of relationships in the Christian faith. It is through relationship that we understand God, deepen our faith, encourage others in their walks with God, and demonstrate God’s love to others. Relationships are truly of utmost importantance in the life of a Christian. This week, we will be using the blog to highlight different ways that relationships can impact our lives and the lives of others as we “depart to serve” in each of our lives.

I want to start with some powerful relationship building that I expierienced yesterday at church in our new Sunday school class. The real meat of the class took place in an open and honest conversation that we had about prayer. The act (and discipline) of prayer is so important in our Christian life, but I think that if we are honest it is hardly ever easy. Creating space to have a conversation about struggles that we all have about prayer was both encouraging and challenging to me. Like most struggles that we have in life, it is easy to think that the hang-ups and problems that we have are unique to us. As we each shared what was difficult about prayer for us in our discussion circle, I heard several things that resonated so deeply with me because I have, at one time or another, felt those struggles too. Then, we shared stories of encouragment and challenged each other to look at prayer in a new way throughout the week. I am truly looking forward to our meeting next week when we can continue our conversation and continue to encourage each other with updates from how our prayer lives were different this week.

What I experienced in that group conversation would have never happended by myself. We each have things from our own faith journeys that we can give to others to help them grow and be encouraged. That conversation opened doors for us to all have deeper relationships with each other moving forward. It may have been a little too out of the ordinary for us to have a conversation about each other’s prayer lives before, but now the door is open and those conversations can happen even outside of the Sunday school class. That is how discipleship works, that is how we encourage each other along the path in this life.

If you want more of God in your life, if you want to live life in a deeper and more fullfilling way- you are going to need relationships with other people who desire the same thing. We were never created to go on this journey alone.